International Committee of the Fourth International
Fourth International 1991: Oppose imperialist war and colonialism!

Letter from a Correspondent in Kiev, and a reply

January 30, 1991

Hello, dear friends!

I got your letter two months ago and was very glad. Thank you very much!

But I must say that the letter I received was opened. I didn’t answer immediately because I was trying to find the guilty party, but it appeared to be impossible. Everybody said, “I am not guilty!” That is, everybody is responsible for nothing. Perhaps somebody wanted to get something valuable from the letter. Perhaps they are still controlling letters from abroad.

Let it be! But I am afraid I will not get the books that you sent me. It will be a great trouble! Please confirm the time you sent those books.

As for me, my friends and I are depressed because the situation in our country is very, very indeterminate. I think it is turning to the right. I understand that the world and people need stability, but would it be right if that stability is provided by a dictatorship?

The conditions for the establishment of a dictatorship are very favorable. First, because of the confusion. The leaders of the soviets, state departments and enterprises don’t know what laws to follow: laws of unity or laws of the republic?

Several days ago, I was in a village in the countryside. I was shocked by the situation there. There is no governing body. Imagine a situation where the people (peasants) elect a chairman of the village soviet, but the chairman of the kolkhoz doesn’t give him permission to be the chairman of the soviet because the person works at the kolkhoz. There is a lot of this in our region. By the way, all important questions are still finally decided by the first secretary of the SPCU, the regional organization. Some people believe in Gorbachev; some people believe in Yeltsin. But most of the people believe in neither. They are not happy about what is happening and at the same time, they are far from taking political action.

Russians have a proverb—”time will tell.” But this proverb is not to my liking.

I am very interested in your ideas about our life, about the latest events in Litva, Latvia, the latest decrees by Gorbachev and Yeltsin’s policies.

I await your answer. Goodbye!

P.S. My English is not good. Can I write in Russian? Would you like me to send you anything? Perhaps newspapers or anything else?

Reply from David North

April 18, 1991

Dear Comrade:

It is good to hear from you again. I am not surprised to hear that my last letter was opened. This is a small but not insignificant demonstration of the fraudulent character of Gorbachev’s glasnost. Despite all the talk about democracy, the vast apparatus of Stalinist repression remains in tact. The spies, informers and secret police are still at work; and even now are adding material to the dossiers of the KGB.

You indicate that you and many of your friends are depressed by the drift toward the re-imposition of a dictatorial regime. That is, indeed, a danger, but it is important to understand its real source.

Since the first great miners strike of 1989, it has become clear to Gorbachev, Yeltsin and all the other enthusiasts of “market economics” within the bureaucracy and among the “democrats” that it is not possible to restore capitalism peacefully in the USSR. As developments throughout Eastern Europe have already demonstrated, the reintroduction of capitalism means the destruction of millions of jobs and the pauperization of the working class. Despite the confusion that presently exists among Soviet workers, they will bitterly resist the shutdown of their factories and the creation of mass unemployment and poverty.

Despite the tactical differences that exist between them, all the main factions within the bureaucracy are agreed on the need to reestablish capitalism and integrate the Soviet Union into the economic structure of world imperialism. Their main fear, however, is the opposition of the working class. That is why the various factions within the bureaucracy, along with the “pro-market” democrats who represent the interests of the new Soviet bourgeoisie, are now seeking to form a coalition government. In this way, they are trying to overcome their own differences and form a united front of political reaction against the working class.

You ask me what I think of Yeltsin. He is a typical product of the Stalinist bureaucracy: ignorant, uncultured, corrupt, and reactionary. My comrades had an opportunity to observe him when he came to the United States last year. He spoke before several hundred students at Columbia University in New York. The students were, for the most part, disgusted by his glorification of American capitalism. Naturally, the American bourgeoisie gave him a “deluxe” tour of the United States, drove him around in limousines, allowed him to sleep in the finest hotels, and fed him the best food. And he accepted this “Hollywood” version of the American dream as reality!

I looked through his recently-published autobiography, and it provides an unintentionally revealing portrait of the man. He spent his entire life inside the bureaucracy, accumulating privileges and power. He knew even less about Marxism and socialism than Leonid Brezhnev. In the course of his biography, Yeltsin does not make a single reference to any of the important historical events which occurred during the years he was making his career. He does not mention Khrushchev’s “secret speech” of 1956 in which Stalin was denounced for the first time. He does not speak of the removal of Khrushchev, the invasion of Czechoslovakia, the trial of Daniel and Sinyavsky, the exile of Solzhenitsyn, or any other notable event. One must draw the conclusion that Yeltsin did not interest himself in anything that did not directly affect his own career.

If Yeltsin has any particular talent, it is as a demagogue whose tongue is not restrained by either an excess of knowledge or moral scruples. This talent makes him useful as the political representative of an increasingly powerful social layer within the Soviet Union. And herein lies the objective political significance of Boris Yeltsin: While Gorbachev is the leader of a bourgeois-restorationist faction within the bureaucracy, Yeltsin is presently the leader of the emerging Russian comprador bourgeoisie.

The difference between these factions is not over fundamental questions of program and principle. On the basic aim—the restoration of capitalism—they are in complete agreement. Their differences are over how this goal is to be realized and, also, how the resources realized through the sell-off of Soviet assets is to be distributed. This is why it is wrong to describe one as “left” and the other as “right.” From the standpoint of Marxism and the interests of the working class, both political tendencies stand on the right wing of the political spectrum.

So that there is no misunderstanding, I do not wish to suggest that those elements within the bureaucracy who claim to oppose the restoration of capitalism represent some sort of “left wing” opposition to the bureaucracy. Far from it, they represent another variety of reactionary politics. Their alternative to the capitalist market is the preservation of a “national socialism” that would permit the bureaucracy to continue its parasitic exploitation of the state economy. This is apolitical line that is as bankrupt as it is reactionary; for it is precisely the impossibility of creating socialism within the national boundaries of the Soviet Union that led to the present crisis.

The conclusion that must be drawn is that the only way forward for the Soviet working class is through a return to the revolutionary-internationalist traditions upon which the Bolshevik Revolution was based and which Trotsky defended against the Stalinists.

I would appreciate receiving reports from you on the developments in the USSR. Of course, you can write to me in Russian if it is easier. Let me know whether you are able to fully understand this letter. I will also send you a copy of this letter in Russian after it is translated.

With the warmest greetings,

David North